New rules on European divisional applications
The European Patent Office has finally seen sense and abolished its ridiculous 24 month rule for filing divisional applications. As from 1 April 2014 divisional applications can be filed for any pending European patent application. The previous distinction between “voluntary” divisional applications and “compulsory” divisional applications, together with the associated 24-month deadline introduced on 1 April 2010, has been removed.
This rule is valid for all divisional application filed after 1 April 2014. And fortunately, It is also valid for any pending patent applications for which the previous 24-month deadline had applied. In other words, the window for filing divisional applications has been removed. They can now be filed as long as the parent application is pending.
There’s of course one catch – increased fees. In future, divisional applications, which are themselves divided out of previous divisional applications, will attract a supplementary fee. This fee ranges from Euros 210 for such a “second generation” application to Euros 840 for a fifth and higher generation application.
The European Patent Office had hoped that the restriction on the time frame for filing divisional patents would mean that fewer would be filed. The law of unintended consequences kicked in as applicants filed “precautionary” divisional application – and apparently lead to a rise in the number of divisional applications being filed.
The return to the old rule of filing as long as the application is in force is to be welcomed. It will mean that difficult and costly decisions will not need to be made when the patent application is still being prosecuted.